Jagdish Khattar, managing director of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which sells half the cars in the country, will likely head a new private equity fund once he retires from the company next month, said people familiar with the matter. Khattar will be joined by senior people from banking and advisory firms in the fund that will invest in small companies with the aim of taking them global, they said. Khattar will likely advise on the management strategies for the acquired companies, they said. The people familiar with the matter did not wish to be identified because they are not authorized to speak about it.
Jagdish Khattar, MD, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd
Khattar confirmed that private equity was one of the options open to him. “It’s one of the several options I’m considering,” said Khattar. “I haven’t made up my mind.”
Private equity players are rushing into the Indian market and have invested nearly $8 billion (Rs31,920 crore) between January and September this year in search of higher returns. Faced with a general shortage of skills, they are trying to attract top executives from other sectors to act as mentors and incubators of the firms they invest in.
Khattar, if he goes on to head a private equity fund, will not be the first Indian executive to move to that sector.
Vivek Paul, vice-chairman of Wipro Ltd, one of the largest IT services company, joined Texas Pacific Group as a partner. Akshay Bhargava, who headed Progeon, the business process outsourcing unit of Infosys, joined 3i, a private equity fund. Khattar, who was an officer of the Indian Administration Service, has been the chief executive of Maruti for eight years. Prior to that, he was director of marketing in the company, then owned jointly by Suzuki Motor Co. and the Government of India.
Khattar’s tenure at the helm of the company saw significant changes in the Indian car market and Maruti in particular. This was the period when the government slowly divested its stake in the company; Maruti sold shares to the public; and Suzuki Motor became the majority shareholder of the company. Khattar is credited with maintaining Maruti’s leadership position in the Indian market by focusing on customer service, promotional plans specifically targeting user groups such as two-wheeler owners, and adding a range of new products.